PHUKET TOWN: Experts who gathered on Thursday in Phuket all agreed that the island has the potential to be a “cyberport” — a center for information technology — but that it still has challenges that need to be met. “We still need to address three important factors,” said Prof Dr Pairash Thajchayapong, president of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), at the Phuket CyberPort II Conference at the Pearl Hotel yesterday. “These three are: educated human resources, good infrastructure and suitable laws and regulations.” Dr Pairash said that several countries have shown interest in working with Phuket to turn it into an IT city. For example, Britain has agreed to set up a cooperative IT and language education program between Cambridge University and Prince of Songkla University, Phuket Campus. Other interested nations are Sweden and India. At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that Phuket’s advantages as an IT center have not been clearly established, so a serious branding exercise will be essential. “I have already sent a proposal to the Governor,” Dr Chira Hongladarom, host of the meeting, told the Gazette. “Once we get the go-ahead from him, we have to do a feasibility study on Phuket’s branding. I will finish it within three months.” He added that he is very concerned with Phuket’s branding because although the island is well known for its tourism, it has no well-defined advantages as an IT center. Dr Paul Temporal, an expert on branding and the author of Branding Asia, agreed. “Branding is important because it can differentiate the island from its competitors. “Phuket has no clear image or position [as an IT center]. As a result, it is overshadowed by regional competitors such as Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and so on,” he said. The budget for the feasibility study will be approximately 3 million baht, which Dr Chira said he expects will come from the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), and from local businesses.
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